The Nationals made a mistake in picking up Papelbon.
Don’t get me wrong, Pap hasn’t been bad pitching-wise. He’s saved all the games he’s been given to save (yes, all six of them), and has a pretty good 2.50 ERA over the 16 games he’s pitched in for the Nats.
But it’s been what has happened to Drew Storen that raises a lot of questions. And I couldn’t have been more right about it.
Over Storen’s last 15 appearances, he has an ERA of 9.22 while ruining a lot of games for the Nationals. Prior to Pap’s arrival in the nation’s capital, Storen was one of the most dominant closers in all of baseball, with 29 saves in 34 opportunities. When they snagged Papelbon at the deadline, Storen was demoted to the “eighth-inning guy” while Papelbon slid directly into the closer’s role.
As manager, Matt Williams should have sat down with Storen and felt out how he would react to being demoted and what his response would be. After the trade, the response from Storen seemed positive, with him saying that to him, it was about winning.
Let’s take a second and analyze that.
Of course everyone wants to do whatever it takes to win, but most react pretty negatively to being demoted after being on track to have a career year. They also respond badly when the guy taking over hasn’t proved anything in a Nationals uniform.
Since the trade, Storen hasn’t reacted well by any standards and has turned a year to remember into a year to remember for all the wrong reasons.
Now let’s be clear here: Storen’s struggles are mostly self-inflicted. I mean, he did just give himself a season-ending injury. But Papelbon taking his closing job hasn’t exactly made it easy. Ever since Papelbon arrived in D.C., it seems as if everything has gone horribly wrong — they have fallen to 9.5 games back of the New York Mets for first place in the NL East and are a foregone conclusion to miss the playoffs. The team was stumbling before Pap arrived and when he did, they fell face-first into the dirt that said “not making the playoffs.”
Was Papelbon the one that pushed them? No one will ever know for sure, but there’s a good chance he played a part in the final shove.